Fifty Years Of Chess

"Your move, yes?" The man with the empty gray eyes slides a pawn across the chess board. It is unseasonably cold for late April. A sudden squall has rolled over the small lake-side town and it's snowing sideways. They are alone in the park except for some geese and the biting wind, which neither seems to notice.

The other man, built like a prize-fighter and possessing a forehead of cliff-like geometry, steeples his fingers and stares at the board. He is blind—his eyes have no pupils at all—but that doesn't seem to be make a difference. After a moment's consideration, he reaches down, moves a rook and takes a pawn.

And somewhere in Europe, a dictator dies in a small bunker with his dog and his family and several unlucky retainers. The wind picks up in their park and traffic flickers past. The sun has finished racing across the sky, night has shuttered the heavens and it is dawn again, before the man with the empty eyes reacts.

"Clever, yes. Perhaps you didn't plan for this, hm?" He sweeps in with his queen and Communists take half of Europe. His voice has a thick Slavic accent, but not of any country on any map printed in the last millenium.

The blind giant smiles, faintly. "I always have a plan, friend."

He goes back to studying the board, even though with the two black pits he calls eyes, he shouldn't be able to see it. He reaches out, thumbs a knight idly, then withdraws his hand as the other man smiles wolfishly. Instead, he moves the other knight into place. Above, the sky reels crazily as the sun chases the moon. Stars, barely noticeable through the glare, pinwheel and dance about Polaris. Somewhere, it is fall, still early, but in this place, while this game plays, it snows.

The base of the chess piece clicks against the polished stone of the board and a man from Brookline, Massachusetts takes a bullet in the head in front of his wife and most of the world.

"You've exposed your king, eh?" the man with the empty gray eyes points out.

"So it would seem."

"I'm wondering what kind of trap you've laid for me if I were to sweep in."

"Try it and see."

"No, no, I think not. Perhaps I will do this instead." And the gray-eyed man castles his own king, drawing it deeper into protection. Somewhere in the world, a wall is built and it is now the dead of winter everywhere. The wind picks up, whipping their coats and ruffling their hair. Neither notice.

The bigger man shrugs and opens the leather valise next to him. He sorts through an array of objects: a horse shoe, a nail, a hammer, a rusty cog or two. His bag looks like a smithy has been emptied out. Finally, he pulls out a pipe. The stem and bowl are made of a richly glowing copper and a polished wood which shines with an oiled rose glow. He lights it without using a match or a lighter and there's a dim spark deep in his black eyes as he takes his first puff. The smoke curls upwards and eddies about his head, oddly resistant to the freezing wind.

With a degree of nonchalance, he moves another piece and it becomes clear that if the other man had not castled, he would have been in checkmate. Instead, the frontline of the chess match advances away from him. And somewhere in the world, a president is disgraced.

The sun and the moon have begun moving so fast they can't be told apart. The sky is glowing a dull ivory, buildings rise and fall around them and the wind is colder and harsher than ever.

The other man, with a droll smile, reaches up with one hand and pulls his face off, revealing a wolf's skull beneath. His former face is now a thin leather mask, quite lifeless. He folds it up neatly and places it into his breastpocket. He grins at the larger man, because that's the only expression he can make now.

"I wish you wouldn't do that," the blind prizefighter complains. "It makes you nearly impossible to understand."

"Yessh, but I shimply can't shtand to 'ear that thiiing," he hisses.

There's a silence of roughly a decade and the man with the wolf skull for a head finally shrugs and slides another pawn across the table. An explosion roars across the sub-basement of a skyscraper a thousand miles away, but the skyscraper doesn't fall.

"Checkmate."

The blind man raises an eyebrow, stares at the table a moment and then tips his king.

He stands, stretches mightily and picks up his valise.

"Perhaps tomorrow?"

The man with the cold gray eyes pauses momentarily from stowing his pieces. He nods, an incongruous thing for a man with a wolf's skull for a head to do.

"Another game, perhaps?" The blind man smiles. "Uno would be fun."

2 comments:

  1. Outstanding tale. The blind and the wolf. Interesting imagery. I really had a lot of fun reading this. You did great with your other description as well, such as the passing of time, and their ever changing surroundings. Excellent work.
    ~Christopher

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  2. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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